A really delicious lasagna is one of the most comforting meals in my book. It’s tough to beat tender pasta, rich tomato sauce, and multiple kinds of Italian cheese all packed into a single casserole dish. But when two of my friends, both Josie and Katie were raving about this version that’s made with short ribs – I had to give it a try!
It doesn’t use any ricotta, which I was worried about. But, you really don’t miss it. The short ribs are braised in the tomato sauce all day long – creating more of a “Sunday Gravy” than a marinara. Then the dish is also layered with a creamy bechamel sauce, another Italian trick to a great pasta dish that many of us haven’t had the opportunity to try. So, that in itself adds a layer of creaminess and richness that replaces the layer of ricotta.
I did go ahead and add more mozzarella cheese than the recipe called for, just because I happened to have a surplus in the fridge. The recipe also called for the addition of porcini mushrooms – which, I didn’t have as many as I’d like. They’re one thing that I always try to have on hand, just because they add such a ton of flavor and keep well in the pantry. My stock has dwindled down, and I have a hard time finding them out here in the Boonies. So, I used what I had which was only about 1/2 cup – but it still turned out delicious. But you could double the quantity of mushrooms if you like. I’ve got to order some more from the internet this week!
The short ribs are shredded down and layered with the pasta, tomato sauce, bechamel sauce, and cheese…then baked to a browned and bubbly perfection. I served with classic accompaniments to any Italian meal – a nice green salad and crusty garlic bread. It’s also a great place for a glass of nice red wine, where you have to open some for the sauce anyways!
Braised Short Rib Lasagna
2 pounds boneless beef short ribs
1/2 cup dried porcini mushrooms
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1 bay leaf
1 cup dry red wine
1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
1 cup finely grated Parmesan Cheese
1 1/2 cups shredded Mozzarella cheese
1 box lasagna noodles
For the bechamel:
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
2 cups milk
1 clove garlic, smashed
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
Rehydrate the mushrooms by placing in a bowl with boiling water. Let sit 15 minutes until soft. Strain the musrooms and reserve cooking liquid to add to the sauce if you like. Roughly chop the mushrooms and set aside.
Season the short ribs with salt and pepper. In a large Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the short ribs, in batches if necessary, and brown on all sides, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate and pour off all but 1 tablespoon of fat.
Reduce the heat to medium and add the onion, carrot, and celery. Cook until the vegetables are tender, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant 30 seconds to 1 minute. Add the tomato paste and cook until it darkens 1 to 2 minutes. Pour in the wine and add the bay leaf. Simmer, stirring and scraping up any browned bits as you go, 2 to 3 minutes.
Add in the crushed tomatoes, as well as the reserved mushroom liquid if using, and bring to a simmer. Return the short ribs to the pot, along with the mushrooms. Cover and reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Cook, turning the ribs every 30 to 40 minutes, until the meat is
fall-off-the-bone tender, about 3 hours total.
Meanwhile cook the lasagna noodles according to package directions, drape on the sides of the colander or the cooking pot, and set aside for assembly.
Use tongs to remove the ribs from the pot and move them to a plate to cool. Pour the sauce into a heatproof bowl and discard the bay leaf. Allow to sit for a few minutes, until the fat rises to the surface. Be sure to get as much fat off as you can, or the tomato sauce will be greasy. Skim it off with a large spoon and discard. When the meat is cool enough to handle, remove any fat or cartilage. Shred the meat and set aside in a medium bowl.
Make the bechamel sauce. Melt the butter in a large saucepan set over medium heat. Stir in the flour with a whisk and cook until golden, whisking constantly, about 2 minutes. Gradually whisk in the milk and add the garlic clove. Cook at a gentle simmer, stirring often, until the mixture thickens, about 10 minutes. Add the 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese. Remove the garlic clove and season with 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Remove from heat and set aside.
Heat the oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease a 9×13 inch baking dish. Spread 1 cup of the tomato sauce on the bottom of the dish and cover the sauce with a slightly overlapping layer of the noodles. Spread 3/4 cup of bechamel over the noodles, and add 3/4 cup of the shredded meat over the sauce. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup of the shredded Parmesan cheese, and 2/3 cup of the mozzarella.
Add another layer of noodles, then repeat the layers as instructed above, to make a total of 3 layers of meat and 4 layers of noodles. At this point you should have used all the meat, but still have some sauce and cheese left over. Spread the remainder of the the sauce over the top and sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan and mozzarella cheese.
Cover the baking dish with foil and bake for 40 minutes. Remove the foil and bake until the top is browned and bubbly, 15 to 20 minutes. Cool for at least 10 minutes before serving. Serve with additional Parmesan for sprinkling if you like.